Three days, three nights and some weary legs. The Wolves went to Phoenix and limped away with a 104-95 loss. Steve Nash and Ricky Rubio locked up for the first time and the veteran Sun Guard showed he still has plenty left in the tank. Next up, at Portland and a bit of a homecoming for some Timberwolves.
While it was certainly the Timberwolves vs. Phoenix, it felt almost like it was the Timberwolves vs. the Schedule. The Suns last played Wednesday, February 22nd prior to the All-Star break. The Suns came into the game with eight days of rest (with 38 year old Steve Nash and 39 year old Grant Hill). The Timberwolves were playing their third game in three nights. The Suns took advantage of fresh legs in the second half.
At one point, the Wolves looked to be on their way, leading 44-34 in the 2nd quarter and heading towards a 51-46 halftime lead. Then the wheels fell off.
The Wolves couldn’t hit anything in the 3rd quarter which led to fast break after fast break for Phoenix. For the game the Wolves shot only 39% including 1-13 on threes. The Suns outscored Minnesota 58-44 in the second half and pretty much ran the Wolves out of the building.
WCCO’s Postgame Interview with Steve Nash
The talk before the game centered around the point guard matchup of Nash and Rubio, the vet and the rookie. There have been comparisons between the two pass-first guards. Rubio probably learned a few things Thursday night. Nash went for 13 points and 17 assists while Rubio matched a season-low with only 2 assists along with 13 points. It was all Nash in this matchup.
Certainly, it would be easy to blame the schedule makers if you’re Minnesota. But Coach Rick Adelman called this “a character game” and this is the type of adversity a team has to overcome to move into the league’s elite. The Wolves came up a little short this time. More tests await this team. Plenty in fact in the second half of the season.
Postgame Interview with Coach Rick Adelman
Kevin Love returned to action after playing only 25 minutes against the Clippers Tuesday then sitting out Wednesday’s Laker game with flu-like symptoms. He admitted he wasn’t 100% but scored 23 points with 10 rebounds (although he was only 8-25 from the field).
J.J. Barea sat out with a strained calf and he’s listed as day-to-day right now. He hopes to play Saturday at Portland.
Speaking of the Trailblazers, this will be the Wolves first look at them this season. Portland is 18-18 right now, half a game up on the Wolves in the Northwest Division Standings. They took a beating from the red-hot Miami Heat Thursday in Portland, the ninth Miami win in a row. Lebron James scored 38 and Dwayne Wade added 33. Not many teams have had the answer for them lately.
Portland has been very good at home though, going 13-6 so far. Another tough game for the Wolves. They’ll get a look at Joel Przybilla, the former Gopher who was just activated for Portland.
The Portland area is connected to Minnesota in a few ways. It’s Kevin Love’s hometown and his parents still live in the area.
Rick Adelman coached Portland for several years (1988-1994) including a pair of NBA Finals in 1990 against Detroit and in 1992 against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
A lot of teams fell to Jordan’s Bulls but Portland gave them all they could handle in that series. One of the defining moments of Jordan’s career came in game 1 of that series when he went off for 35 first half points and his infamous “shrug” at the broadcast table. A great moment in NBA history that Adelman surely would like to forget. But still something worth a few minutes to revisit (thanks to YouTube, you can do that here).
Adelman still has a home in the area as do guard Martell Webster and General Manager David Kahn.
Other off the court news surrounds forward Michael Beasley and more rumors about him being shopped for a trade.
Reports out of New England have said the Celtics are very interested in Beasley, but the Wolves are not interested unless they get something solid in return, likely at least a first-round draft pick. Beasley has been coming off the bench with some success. It seems the emergence of rookie Derrick Williams has made Beasley expendable to the Wolves.
The trading deadline is March 15th so this rumor looks like it will be hanging around for a bit. The Lakers have also shown interest as have New Jersey and Houston. The challenge will be finding a team to give up draft picks plus take on Beasley’s $6.2 million salary. The Lakers, for example, are already over the Luxery Tax line so adding another $6 million actually means adding $12 million in payroll.
That’s it for today. Make sure you check into WCCO Radio starting at 8:00 Saturday night for Timberwolves Tip-Off with Eric Nelson. Then Alan Horton has the call of the Wolves at Trailblazers starting at 9:00 on the new home for Timberwolves Basketball, News Radio 830 WCCO!